Sunday, October 25, 2015

Silly Things

Sometimes, it's the silliest things that can make me nostalgic. Take, for instance, this shower head. It finally gave up the ghost and I'm pretty sad about it. You see, I bought that shower head when the kids were little. With three kids as close in age as mine are, it was far easier to line them up in the bathtub and hose them off with the shower head than to draw baths for them.

I bought this wonderful Waterpik in 1996 and it has moved with me ever since. No matter how many moves the kids and I made, the first thing I did was remove the old shower head and replace it with this. When we moved out, I simply put the original back on and the landlords were none the wiser for it.

Even after the kids moved out and Jay and I moved to Small Town, Colorado, the shower head moved with me.

I replaced it Friday with a new one that I already hate and I haven't even used it yet. I went with an economical version, but in installing it I realized it wasn't going to cut it. I'll use it, but only until I can buy a real Waterpik to replace it with. I should have just dished out the money in the first place instead of being a cheap ass.

In the meantime, I'll mourn the loss of the one item I've carried with me since the kids were babies.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 30

It was very hard to get a picture of the Colosseum, as it is always swarming with people. It looks like a busy anthill with ants scurrying here and there.

We did a self-guided tour and I was awe-struck by the fact that I was standing in a stadium with so much history. Even with so many people around, I could help but feel touched by the events past. We opted not to do a guided tour, but now that they've opened the underground chambers and passages to tour groups, I will definitely be doing that next time around.

Rome was an exciting, beautiful place to visit, but my inner country girl will always feel more at peace in the wide open spaces like Tuscany or in the small villages surrounded by nature like Cinque Terre.

Friday, October 23, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 29

Nebalee, Deejo, me

All girlified: Staci, Robs, me, Nebalee, Sue

Me and Robs both in dresses - it was an event!
I love my family and my girls. Love them. A year or so after Hall and I broke up, Brandy and Justin got married and I was invited to the wedding, along with Nebalee and Deejo.

Our break-up was awful and it took me years to get over it, so Brandy's wedding fell smack-dab in the middle of my mourning period. Because I love Brandy, I wouldn't have missed her wedding for anything, even if that meant seeing Hall and his fiancee for the first time since our very bad break-up.

My sibs and my girls rallied around me, knowing how difficult it was going to be and I ended up having the greatest time ever. Yes, Hall and the soon-to-be Mrs Hall were an annoyance, but we managed to avoid each other and still have a great time.

Because of my crazy work-out schedule (and probably some stress too), I had lost 24 pounds since anyone outside of my girls had seen me. Perhaps one of the best parts of the whole night was seeing the look on Hall's face when I walked in with my posse sibs and my girls. I never thought I was "girly" enough that I would derive pleasure from rubbing the fact that I was doing okay (even if it was a lie) in his face. Turns out I was wrong, I totally loved that feeling. It was so worth the "die, bitch" looks I was getting from his fiancee, who happened to be a member of the wedding party.

(Yes, Robs and I wore black to the wedding, not for any malicious reason, but because we were only going to buy ONE dress and it needed to be multi-purpose. What's more multi-purpose than a little black dress?)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 28

I didn't get heavily into shooting until after Hall and I broke up. I knew how to shoot before then, but once my stalker issue was resolved, I stepped away from the shooting lifestyle and learned to enjoy the soccer lifestyle, but I always missed it.

After we broke up, I stepped right back into the shooting world and began shooting competitively at our local defensive pistol matches. Neither Staci nor Robs are shooters, but they are always up for a challenge and agreed to join me at one of my matches.

I can't believe that it's been almost twelve years since these pictures were taken. I was so tiny back then and in the best shape of my life. Besides shooting, I was playing on four soccer teams a week (three indoor teams with Staci and Robs and one outdoor team), and working out six days a week. Being in that kind of shape certainly helped with my shooting skills, and while I would definitely consider Staci and Robs novice shooters, their athletic ability really helped them out at the match as well.

This was such a fun day and I'm forever thankful for my girls who wholeheartedly support me in anything I want to do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 27

Both of these were taken at Highgate Cemetery in London on our first trip to Europe. I never had much interest in history, but this cemetery was really eye-opening for me. There are grave markers that are older than our country! These pictures don't do it justice - the cemetery (the East one, at least) is breathtaking. It is surprisingly peaceful and full of life.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 26

My ex-husband and I bought a house in Loveland shortly after Monster was born. We couldn't afford it, not even close, but his parents' friends were selling it and his parents decided to buy it with us.

This picture of me with Dr. Michael Charney was taken at our house warming party. Doc was one of my favorite instructors at CSU - so much so that I became one of his many teaching assistants. He was a world renowned forensic anthropologist, and I fell in love with the field of forensic anthropology the second I stepped into his osteology class. The second semester, I took his facial reconstruction class and my fate was sealed. I had to work for him, and I did until the day he died and then some.

I had the pleasure of learning from him for three or four years and was convinced that if I didn't get into medical school, I would end up in his field. I expected him to live forever and just assumed that he'd be around to help me in my career. Unfortunately, he was not immortal and died in the hospital of pneumonia. The team of TAs finished teaching out the semester, which just wasn't the same without him.

The kids loved visiting his lab, a small A-frame on CSU's campus. Rows and rows of skulls lined three walls of his office, the fourth wall was shelves loaded with boxes of bones that the families' of the deceased had donated. You would think, being surrounded by all of those bones would be creepy, but it wasn't. It felt like being among friends, strange as that sounds.

Bonus picture: this is on my cabinet at work.
You can see in the bonus picture, the rows of skulls lining the wall behind Doc. He left instructions - and made them well known - that his bones were to be articulated (wired together) and sent back to CSU. Doc's office, the A-frame, has been turned into a storage shed or something, so he now keeps someone else company all day long. He now permanently resides in an office, posed the way he often sat in real life.

Monday, October 19, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 25

Creepy, muddy lane and the Scooby Doo gate

This might just look like a long, muddy road, but it leads to one of the most haunted castles in Europe. Chillingham Castle was a must-do on our first trip as a group across the pond.

The plan was to take the train from London to Alnmouth and then take a cab from Alnmouth to Chillingham. We noticed that one of the stops along the way was in Newcastle, and Hall was a die-hard Newcastle United fan, so the two of us decided to get off at Newcastle so we could go see St. James' Park.

We hopped off at the stop, planning to catch the next one through and meet up with everyone else at the castle. However, we did so without checking the train schedule. Turns out that the train only stopped at Newcastle during commuter hours, so we  were stuck in Newcastle until the end of the work day. This was back before cell phones were readily available and had decent international service, so we had no way of telling the rest of the group that we would be hours behind them, not just one hour. We walked around St. James' Park and enjoyed the day in Newcastle before hopping the first afternoon train to Alnmouth.

I don't recall how we managed to arrange for a cab in Alnmouth, because my memory of the station is just a stop in the middle of nowhere. I do remember that the cab from Alnmouth to Chillingham was not an actual nightmare, but neither of us could understand a single word the cab driver said and he apparently could barely understand us. We did understand when he pointed out Alnwick Castle, where they filmed Harry Potter. Those were about the only words we understood, "American Filmn Harry Potter". No, that's not a typo, he said filmn.

The gate at the end of the long, muddy lane in the picture is what we came to call the "Scooby Doo gate", full of creaks and groans just like the cartoon.

Shamelessly stolen picture of the creepy bridge on the grounds

While Brian and I were cooling our heels in Newcastle, the rest of the group took a tour of the castle grounds. I loved the picture of the creepy bridge so much that I stole a copy of it from someone (either Squid or Robs).

Being the off-season for tourists, the castle wasn't exactly bustling with activity and there was no food to be found, so the caretakers sent Hall and I into the next village to find some food. The rest of the group had given up waiting on us and had already gone on ahead.

The mile and a half into the village was the longest mile and a half I'd ever walked. It was like we'd been transported into American Werewolf in London, and I'm not exaggerating. It was dark, drizzly, and there were a bunch of noises we didn't recognize.

Unbelievably, we found the rest of the group in a restaurant in the village, just getting their dinner. We happened to look through a window of a restaurant and there they were! I was never so happy to see familiar faces in my life.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 24

I love this picture of me at a Byers, Colorado long-range match. I don't have a long-range rifle of my own, so both matches I shot, I did with a borrowed gun. At this match, both Tara and I used her rifle.

Bonus picture: this one is not on my wall, but this is Tara at the same match.
There's something very satisfying about laying down behind a rifle and hitting your target 1,000 yards away. If you can't picture how far away 1,000 yards is, it's more than half a mile. 0.568182 miles away, to be exact. (In the bonus picture, you can't even see the targets, but they're located at the top of the rise.) It's a long, long way off and I managed to hit my target all day long.

Well, all except one shot. When you're shooting at that distance, there are some forces outside of your control. The one shot I "threw" was because just as the trigger broke, a gust of wind popped up and pushed my bullet to the right. A lot. My bullet tore through the target to my right. Let me tell you, there are few things more embarrassing than hitting another competitor's target in competition. She wasted no time yelling that it wasn't her shot, so she wouldn't be scored on it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 23

I'm leading, Ashinator is in the pink, and Digger is behind her.

One of the best benefits of working for the livery was that I could do cool things for the kids. For Digger's birthday one year, we had a riding party. If I wasn't working there, it would have been cost-prohibitive, but many summers I worked in trade for free rides and tips.

Digger was allowed to invite a few friends up to ride, and we went out for a one-hour ride. After our ride, we were treated to a trick roping show. One of the wranglers had a friend who was a competitive trick roper (did you know there was even such a thing?), and he spent some time showing off and teaching the kids a few rope tricks.

Friday, October 16, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 22

Back row: Shannon, Kev, Justin. Front row: Robs, me, Brandy, Mrs. Squid, Squid

It was hard to leave Sovigliano, but we were ready to continue our adventure in Italy. This is one of the few pictures we have of the entire group together, and our hosts were kind enough to take it.

Traveling with a group this large can be difficult, but we'd been friends long enough and traveled enough together that we could just set times to meet back up and go our own ways without anyone's feelings getting butt-hurt. There was never any pressure to stay together as a large group. We had plans at least once a day to do something as a group, usually food-based, but the rest of the day we split up and explored where we wanted to.

I'm so thankful that Squid is a planner extraordinaire and that this group was so easy to travel with. Too bad everyone grew up, got married, and started having families of their own. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 21

Back before re-creation photos were popular, we did this re-creation picture. The original is up at the Lodge and we were much younger. I was 18 when the first picture was taken, and this was taken maybe 15 years later. I don't exactly remember, but it was a long time ago.

We had the original picture taken at an "Old Tyme" photo place in Estes Park (long before Mom and Bill owned the Lodge), so we took the original picture in with us to the same place to have this one done. I don't see much difference in me between the first and second pictures. Yes, I'm older, but I was 18 in the first and pretty much done growing. Junior, the youngest, is the one who changed the most from picture to picture. He was 9 in the first picture, so in this one he's all growed up.

If you want to be able to compare the two pictures, you'll just have to book a room at the Lodge :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 20

This might be one of my all-time favorite pictures of Ashinator and Jakers. She was such a darn cute kid and loved her Jake. Yes, he looks worried in this picture, but he always looked worried. This was early on in his new life with us. His worried face dissipated throughout the years and became more 'patient tolerance'.

I don't know that there's a story behind this picture other than it's just darling and it makes me smile. Jake loved and protected the kids and put up with all of their shenanigans.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 19

I've only made the kids do a family Halloween costume once, but it was the cutest Halloween ever. Since we had the Best Dog in the World, Jakers, and Jake was a Dalmatian, I just had to have my own fire brigade for Halloween.

Mom sewed the turnout coats (this was long before you could buy a fighterfighter's costume) and I made the breathing apparatus. I took 2 liter bottles and painted them, ran an oxygen hose from the bottom of the "tank" to a mask, and fashioned a harness for their tanks. Black gloves, plastic fire helmets, and snow boots completed the costumes for the kids.

Jakers, however, had to have his own costume. I made a drape for him to wear and turned our little red wagon into a fire engine, complete with a flashing bubble light. I knew the kids would get tired while Trick-or-Treating, so having the wagon was a stroke of genius on my part, if I do say so myself. I tried to make a harness for Jake to pull the wagon, but that was a pain in the butt, so I settled for walking Jake with one hand and dragging the wagon with the other.

Corralling Jake and three squirmy kids for a picture was next to impossible, so I plopped the kids down on the couch after we got back from Trick-or-Treating and snapped a quick picture. As you can tell, they were over the whole thing and just wanted to eat their damn candy.

Monday, October 12, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 18

Back when the kids were little soccer players.

I miss those days, hectic as they were. I'm pretty much the most obnoxious sports mom on the planet. Not one of the ones who doesn't understand the game, but yells at the kids/coach/ref anyway. Nope, when I yelled at the ref, it was justified. I knew the rule book pretty well.

I coached Digger's team for a few years and my team is all "growed up", but they still all call me "Coach". We had a lot of fun for those few years. We weren't the best team in the league, but we were by far not the worst. I'm proud of the boys - they worked hard and grasped the concept of the game much better than many of the other teams in the league. The teams who were better than us were the ones who were being groomed for the competitive travel teams, while we were playing for fun. Hall and I hosted a "parents vs kids" game every season, and Hall would bring a variety of his jerseys for the kids to choose from to wear. The kids always looked forward to kicking their parents' butts. At first, the parents would "go easy" on the boys, but the boys quickly showed them that unless they wanted slaughtered, the parents better step up their game. Great memories.

Before soccer, Ashinator was such a girly girl. She would cry over anything. Total emotional and physical wimp. Enter soccer. Holy cow, what a change. I remember one game where she got cleated in the stomach. If it had been me, I would have pulled myself from the game. I mean, I'm tough, but I'm not "cleat marks on my gut" tough. Ashinator pulled up her shirt, looked at the bright red marks on her stomach and kept going. That's when I knew she'd be okay. She found her inner toughness. She's still pretty sensitive, but in a good way now.

Monster was a natural with a soccer ball. While the other kids on his team were still trying to figure out how to pass the ball correctly, Monster was juking the opponents right and left. He's a natural forward. He switched his passion from soccer to skateboarding and I was heartbroken. He's amazing with a skateboard, but to see a little three year-old with the soccer skills he had was breath-taking. I won't lie, I had dreams of soccer scholarships.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 17

This is a picture of me and Robs at the bottom of a cliff face between Manarola and Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre. We were walking from Manarola south to Riomaggiore and found a set of stairs that looked like they didn't go anywhere, so naturally, we had to try them. They led down to the water of the Italian Riviera, which was not by any stretch of the imagination a beach. The stairs basically led to a cove-like area where we took pictures and dodged the spray from the waves.

I would love to one day return to Italy. Someone once said they couldn't trust anyone who didn't love Italy (Rick Steves, maybe?), and I have to agree. One trip, and I will forever love it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 16

Well, I've officially made it more than halfway through my self-imposed 30 days. I'm still thankful I didn't specify 30 successive days. :)

I swore I'd never get married again. In fact, I was pretty content with the idea of just being a crazy horse lady, but Ashinator worried about me. (I think the boys did, too, but she was much more vocal about it.)

I threw a temper tantrum that eventually led to me meeting Jay and a few weeks later we were engaged. Compared to the whirlwind courtship, our engagement was really long - exactly eleven months. We got engaged on June 14 and married on May 14. We celebrated our sixth anniversary this year, which doesn't seem like that big a milestone, but for someone who swore off a relationship, it's pretty big.

I was married the first time right at seven years, though we were separated for six months before the divorce was final, and my other serious relationship was about five and a half years, making my marriage to Jay my longest relationship. We've got a long way to go to match my Great-Grandparent's sixty years, but I think we've got a good start. I mean, we're 1/10th of the way there!

Friday, October 9, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 15

My great-grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. I can't imagine being married that long, and when we did the math, Jay and I realized we will be well into our 90s if we ever make that mark.

I have lots of fond memories of growing up with Great-Grandma Wheeler. I was not at all her favorite - that would be Nebalee - but she was the one who picked me up from school when I was in kindergarten and played paper dolls with me. To this day, I can't figure out how she could take a sheet of paper and end up with a string of dolls. We pressed flowers between sheets of waxed paper and she always had a bunch of newspaper paper for me to draw on. On Sundays, after church, we'd swing through McDonald's and I could get a Happy Meal. Great-Grandpa would always have a Filet o' Fish sandwich and he lived for the Shamrock Shakes in March.

My memories of Great-Grandpa aren't as sharp as mine with Grandma, probably because he was off working at the cement plant when I was little. He had an amazing garden that was fully half an acre and I clearly remember getting in trouble for flushing the toilet one day when he was watering the garden. I was little, how was I supposed to know that it would kill the water pressure? From that time on, I was afraid to use their bathroom. I don't recall him being a hard man, but that one time getting in trouble certainly stuck with me.

He loved to go fishing at a nearby lake, and we'd always stop at the fish hatchery on the way. While he spent his time fishing, I would troll the water's edge for snails. There were so many! And I loved to pick them all up off the rocks. Once in a while, I'd be allowed to take a snail friend home with me in a plastic container of water with a rock or two in it.

Most of my memories of Great-Grandpa are from young adulthood when Parkinson's disease was ravishing his body. It was awful to see such a strong man slowly deteriorate. Great-Grandma and Grandma Nita helped care for him until the day he died. Shortly thereafter, Great-Grandma was diagnosed with colon cancer, so Grandma Nita took on the caretaker role again and cared for Great-Grandma until her death.

Their house and acreage has been sold and I about cried when the people who bought the house immediately ripped out their beautiful, HUGE picture window and put in a tiny "efficient" one. When I was younger, I was pretty certain their house was haunted, but I'd give just about anything to have their house (picture window intact) back.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 14

Holy cow, it might take me 30 weeks to get my 30 days in, but, by God, I am going to persevere. I am, I am, I am!

Today's picture is in honor of the Avalanche's Opening Day.

One of the first years we traveled to Disney's Wild World of Sports for the National 3v3 Soccer Championships, we were wandering around the Epcot Center. The four of us stopped at a food cart and the operator asked us if we were hockey fans. Well, yeah! The Colorado Avs were in their heyday and we were all fans. The operator then told us to head over to Canada, because they had the Stanley Cup on display.

It took us about half a second to change whatever our plans were and we made a beeline to see it.  We expected to have to stand in a long line, because the year after the Avs won their first Stanley Cup, the lines were hours long to see it when they brought it home to Colorado. We were pleasantly surprised to walk right up to it.

I had just purchased a popcorn while we were at the food cart and set it very carefully on the table, so as not to dirty it. A gust of wind immediately knocked over my popcorn as soon as I sat it down. I was mortified to have sullied the sacred cup, so I quickly righted the box of popcorn and brushed all the offending pieces to the ground.

Somewhere, one of the four of us has a picture of us all kissing the cup, but this is the only picture I have. My right thumb is caressing the engraved Avs name.

I couldn't tell you much about that trip, other than we had a great time and I got to kiss the Stanley Cup! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a memory I'll cherish forever.

Friday, October 2, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 13

Five living generations of females. My Great-Grandma Wheeler (lower left) was so excited. When Digger was born, we had our five living generations, but Great-Grandma really wanted to have five generations of women and she finally got it when Ashinator was born.

I don't think there are many families anymore who can boast the five living generations thing, and Great-Grandma died within a year after Ashinator was born. One of my childhood friends posted a picture of her grandma with the fifth generation baby; less than 24 hours after she met her goal of five living generations, her grandma passed away. It's funny how goals like that can help keep people alive.

I am sooooo not ready to be a grandma, but there's nothing that would make my Grandma Nita happier than for Ashinator to provide her with a fifth generation female to continue the tradition. It's a good thing Grandma Nita is insisting on living to 100 so we've got some time.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 12

Well, coming off of that last depressing post, here's a much happier one from our honeymoon. Instead of spending big bucks on a wedding, we chose to spend a week in Hawaii for our honeymoon. It was so beautiful and we were able to find a secluded beach away from the rest of the tourists, thanks to a co-worker who had lived there and gave us the name (which escapes me) of an area off the beaten path.

We quickly realized that beach-sitting was not for us. Yes, the beach was beautiful, but after about fifteen minutes we needed to get up and do something. We had planned for a few outings, which were definitely boredom-busters. We spend one day at Kualoa Ranch taking the movie set tour, and another day driving around the island. At other times, we just explored. It was beautiful, and I can understand why people would want to live there, but by the end of our week, we were ready to come home.

Hawaii is beautiful, but it's not Colorado.

(PS, if I've scheduled this post right, it should go up on October 1, which is Beel's birthday. Hoppy bird day two ewe, Beel.)